MDP concern over stalled Majlis investigation into Ibthihaal case

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has voiced concern over the slow pace in which the Majlis investigation into the death of 3-year-old Mohamed Ibthihaal has been proceeding.

MDP MP Rozaina Adam said that, despite the government oversight committee receiving reports from the relevant authorities a week ago, a meeting has not been scheduled.

“We have been pleading and begging with the committee chair Riyaz Rasheed to schedule a meeting,” said Rozaina. “This investigation is getting stalled because a meeting has not been scheduled.”

The motion to investigate the death of the boy from Vaavu Rakeedhoo-year-old, who was found dead on January 28 with signs of severe physical abuse, was proposed by Rozaina, fellow MDP member Ahmed Falah, and Jumhooree Party MP Moosa Nizar.

Government oversight committee chair Riyaz Rasheed, of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, was not responding to calls at time of publication.

He explained last week that the first hearing into the case had been adjourned after most members of the committee requested more time to analyse the recently received documents.

Commenting on the reports given by the police, Rozaina said that the details given consisted only of events which occurred after Ibthihaal’s death, and did not have any details of the events leading up to his death.

Rakeedhoo island councilor Abdulla Rasheed had previously told Minivan News that the council had informed authorities Ibthihaal was being abused prior to his death.

Rozaina also said that the reports revealed police had not informed the Family Protection Agency (FPA) of the case, as required by Article 14 of the Domestic Violence Act, which states that the police shall inform the authority if any member of the police is present at the scene of an incident of domestic violence or when the incident is reported.

She said that the FPA has been facing severe budget constraints as it has not been able to obtain finances, since money was not allotted to the authority by the parliament as per Article 55 of the Domestic Violence Act.

“The PPM majority budget committee did not hold meetings with the FPA. In addition, the FPA has informed us that it is being run by only two to three staff members,” she said.

FPA staff have confirmed to Minivan News that they have only three technical staff members, with Policy and Advocacy Director Aminath Leena Ali saying this was “not even close” to enough staff to deal with the current workload.

She noted that there had been an increase in reports of abuse since news of Ibthihaal’s death broke. NGO Advocating the rights of Children has described the rise in reported incidents as the “tip of the iceberg”.

MP Rozaina went on to accuse the government of negligence, saying that the gender ministry has no parliament-approved minister. The ministry has been headed by Attorney General Mohamed Anil since its creation in July last year.

In addition, she said that the gender ministry’s child helpline 1412 has stopped functioning, and is not picking up calls.

“Ibthihaal’s murder illustrates when the government does not adequately address social issues,” said the Meedhoo MP.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) – who is also conducting investigations into Ibthihaal’s death – released a press statement last night urging media outlets to not publish articles which might hinder its investigations or mislead citizens.

Related to this story

Majlis begins investigation into Ibthihaal’s death

State negligence investigated in death of Rakeedhoo child

Body of abused child found in Vaavu Rakeedhoo

MPs need more time for Ibthihaal investigation


MIFCO denies reducing staff allowances, ACC investigates fraudulent US$1 million transaction

The chairman of Maldives Industrial Fisheries Corporation (MIFCO) has denied rumours the company is to reduce staff allowances, while the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has launched an investigation after US$1 million receivable to MIFCO was transferred to an incorrect bank account.

Speaking to Haveeru, MIFCO board Chairman Hassan Rasheed said the recent merging of the two state-owned fisheries companies with MIFCO had brought the need to “synchronise” the allowances as the employees were being paid differently at the two companies.

Kooddoo Fisheries and Felivaru Fisheries were brought under the management of MIFCO in September this year after having been separated into independent entities during former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration.

“The staff allowances were not the same in the three companies,” said Rasheed. “While attendance allowance is provided not for staff in one company, the other provides attendance allowance, thus bringing about the need to synchronise the allowances.”

Meanwhile, the ACC and the Maldives Police Service have launched an investigation into a missing US$1 million after a company from Thailand transferred the money into an account that did not belong to MIFCO.

ACC president Hassan Luthfee told Minivan News that the commission initiated the investigation last week. Local media reported that the commission had started the investigation after rumours began circulating in the press and social media.

Speaking about the transaction, MIFCO CEO Adhlee Ismail alleged the Thai company was tricked into sending the sum to the wrong account after a group of people impersonating MIFCO contacted them via email.

“What really happened was, the buyer sent the money to a wrong account after a group of hackers impersonated MIFCO by creating an email with an extra letter to the MIFCO email. The buyer did not do the necessary background checks before transferring the money,” local media reported Adhlee as saying.

Adhlee denied MIFCO staff involvement in the fraudulent transaction while alleging that the emails were sent to Thailand from Nigeria.

According to, MIFCO submitted the case to Maldives Police Service on Thursday and the company has since received US$600,000 of the missing money.

Related to this story

Kooddoo, Felivaru merged with MIFCO

MIFCO yellow fin tuna receives Friends of the Sea eco-label


Government paying Grant Thornton £4.6 million to halt STO oil trade investigation

The Maldivian government has reportedly been paying millions of dollars in penalty fees to forensic accountancy firm Grant Thornton, after last year terminating its contract to recover assets allegedly stolen during the 30 year regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Under the terms of the contract, signed by the former Nasheed administration in July 2010, Grant Thornton would charge no fee for the investigation beyond costs such as flights and accommodation, instead taking a percentage of the assets recovered. At the same time, Grant Thornton was entitled to charge a penalty fee of up to US$10 million should the government terminate the investigation, such as in the event it arrived at a political deal.

One of the first acts of President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s government after 7 February 2012’s controversial transfer of power was to dissolve the Presidential Commission which had been overseeing Grant Thornton’s investigation, and terminate the agreement with the forensic accountants.

In August 2012, Attorney General Azima Shakoor issued a statement announcing that her office had received two invoices totalling US$358,000 and GBP£4.6 million from Grant Thorton, charges she claimed were for legal advice provided to Nasheed’s government.

Azima had not responded at time of press, but Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad confirmed to Minivan News last week that the government has been paying the charges, though he said he did not have the exact amounts to hand.

Minivan News understands from a source familiar with the matter that the government paid an initial GBP£1.5 million (US$2.4 million) on 24 April 2013, with the remaining amounts to be paid in monthly installments of GBP£300,000 (US$476,000) each.

According to the source, the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) remitted these monthly payments to Grant Thorton on May 22, June 27 and July 17.

STO and the Maldives-Burma oil trade

On 1 February 2012, a week before Nasheed’s government was toppled by opposition demonstrators and a mutinous section of the police, the Presidential Commission had forwarded a case for prosecution against Gayoom’s half-brother MP Abdulla Yameen over his alleged involvement in an oil trade of up to US$800 million with the Burmese military junta, during his time as chairman of the State Trading Organisation (STO).

“As of February 2012, Grant Thorton were ready with a criminal complaint, having obtained a number of documents relating to financial dealings from Singapore banks through court orders issued by Singapore courts,” stated Dr Ahmed Shaheed, former Foreign Minister and head of the Presidential Commission, shortly after the contract’s termination.

Yameen is contesting the presidential run-off against Nasheed on September 28. He has publicly dismissed the allegations on repeated occasions, distancing himself from the Singapore branch of the STO where the trade to Burma took place, as well as disputing any illegality in the trade.

The allegations first appeared in February 2011 in India’s The Week magazine, which described Yameen as “the kingpin” of a scheme to buy subsidised oil through STO’s branch in Singapore and sell it through a joint venture called ‘Mocom Trading’ to the Burmese military junta at a black market premium price.

That article drew heavily on a leaked draft of an investigation report by Grant Thorton, dissecting the contents of three hard drives containing financial information regarding transactions from 2002 to 2008. No digital data was available before 2002, and the paper trail was described as “hazy”.

Grilled by parliament’s National Security Committee over the matter in November 2011, Yameen denied any involvement in “micro-management” of STO subsidiary companies during his time as chairman until 2005.

Jumhooree Party vows to reopen investigation

In the lead up to the first round of the presidential election – in which the Jumhoree Party (JP) narrowly missed second place in the run-off to Yameen – JP vice presidential candidate Dr Hassan Saeed vowed to “reopen” the investigation into the STO oil case “as an issue of the highest priority.”

Dr Saeed was President Waheed’s Special Advisor at the time the Presidential Commission was dissolved, and the Grant Thornton contract terminated.

“Abdulla Yameen’s case was started under the previous government. While it was being investigated this government came into office, canceled the contract [with Grant Thornton] and paid 4.6 million pounds on the condition that it not proceed with the investigation, of which a large portion has now been paid,” Dr Saeed declared, during a press conference on August 31.

Saeed claimed that Grant Thornton attempted to communicate with Dr Waheed’s administration regarding the investigation but had received no reply. The accounting firm therefore decided that the contract was at an end and hired a debt collection agency, he revealed.

Asked by media if he had any role in terminating the contract as Waheed’s special advisor, Saeed claimed the contract was already cancelled when he became aware of it.

He further claimed that Dr Waheed was forced to reappoint STO Maldives Singapore Pvt Ltd and Maldives National Oil Company (MNOC) Managing Director Ahmed Muneez because of “pressure from Yameen.”

“Dr Waheed said he had to do it because of extreme pressure from Yameen,” Saeed said.

President Waheed, who polled 5.13 percent in the vote, has since declared he will back Yameen in the second round of the presidential election.

“I say this because in my opinion, the best path for this country cannot be the weakening of the constitutional framework, breaking the law, arson, or the creation of conflict,” Waheed said, explaining his decision to back Yameen in a statement published on the President’s Office website.


National Security Committee investigating local media spreading JP’s claims against Elections Commission

Parliament’s National Security Committee summoned the Elections Commission (EC), the Maldives Police Service (MPS), the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) to appear for questioning today in regard to its investigation into an EC case filed against the Jumhoree Party (JP).

An EC letter requesting the National Security Committee provide the commission an opportunity to share their concerns about local media spreading JP’s “baseless and unfounded” claims, was presented yesterday (September 13) by committee chairperson MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik and unanimously approved, according to local media.

“The National Security Committee is concerned that the [presidential] contestants unfounded claims of corruption against the EC are a threat to national security,” Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News today.

MBC has been summoned to the parliamentary committee for allegations that Villa TV (VTV) – owned by resort tycoon and JP presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim – was spreading information to incite hatred against the EC, while the MPS and MNDF will be questioned to determine whether current events pose a threat to national security, according to Sun Online.

Meanwhile, MBC has launched an investigation into VTV broadcasting unsubstantiated content in violation of the broadcasting code of practice. The commission stated that it was investigating the matter after a case was filed by a private individual, according to local media.

VTV has been continuously broadcasting the live program ‘Olhuvaalee Vote Ge Namugai’ (‘fraud in the name of the vote’) as well as reports against the EC and MDP ever since Gasim placed third in the first round of the presidential election with 24.07 percent, a total of 50,422 votes, reports CNM.

Asked about the confusion over the voting figures in the media not matching those of the EC during counting, Elections Commission Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz criticised local media’s role in the matter.

“Politicians and newspapers have reported this [10,000 votes issue]”, he said, singling out the online publication for particular criticism.

Meanwhile, during an elections National Advisory Committee meeting held Thursday (September 12), the JP, along with representatives of the PPM and President Mohamed Waheed, agreed they all want a vote recount of all ballot boxes conducted.

However, the MDP’s representative on the Advisory Committee insisted there were no grounds to warrant a vote recount and accused JP of not noting any issues during polling.

“It’s a matter of principle – this was a democratic election held under a democratic system. All parties were given an opportunity to send observers and monitors, and their observations [of the voting and counting process] were done in front of the people, as per the law,” said Ghafoor.

“This was an elaborate, laborious process with each count confirmed and then exhibited at each voting centre,” he continued.

“A recount would set a bad precedent that is not in the national interest. It would create a loss of faith in the system,” he emphasised.

Ghafoor noted that international observers have praised the transparency of the election process, including four former Election Commissioners hailing from India and the Commonwealth.

“The EC is one of the [only] effective, independent commissions we have. It has a very clean track record, which everyone knows,” declared Ghafoor. “An elaborately developed legal process [for elections] has been in place since 2008, there have been at least 11 by-elections conducted to date and none of them have been contested.”

He noted that the election results are being contested “by people like Gasim Ibrahim, who are from a culture that has rigged votes all their lives.”

Meanwhile, Elections Commission Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz told local media the JP had requested a recount without any legal basis. He noted that if all the ballot box seals were broken for a recount, this could create election confidence issues and set a dangerous precedent for future elections. He proposed recounting boxes randomly as an alternative.


MP involved in illegal drug business is attempting to frame me: Umar Naseer

Additional reporting by Mariyath Mohamed

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) presidential primary candidate Umar Naseer has claimed that an MP involved in the illegal drug business is attempting to “frame” him.

Speaking at a rally on Friday night (March 15), Naseer claimed that the unnamed MP had tried to ruin his reputation by sending police into his offices looking for contraband.

On Saturday night (March 16), Naseer then posted on both his Facebook and Twitter page that someone had tried to frame him “but I was not in the car I was delivering a speech in Miladhoo”.

Asked what Naseer was referring to, a police source told Minivan News today that a bottle of alcohol had been found in a car belonging to Naseer’s wife when searched by police yesterday.

“Last night the driver of the car had parked after there had been some sort of accident caused by someone on the back seat.

“At that time, the driver found a bottle of alcohol within the car and reported it to the police. We took the driver, questioned him and released him,” the source claimed.

Speaking in regard to the alcohol allegedly found in the car, Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed that a bottle had been found and the case was still under investigation.

“We received a report from a driver of a vehicle stating that there was a bottle of alcohol in the car. Police went to the car, searched it and took the vehicle,” Haneef said.

Last week, Naseer had posted on social media that he had received “intel” that an attempt would be made to assassinate his character by planting drugs in one of his offices.

Speaking in front of a giant display of a mosque set up for his campaign on Friday, Naseer said that he did not partake in acts involving illegal drugs.

“A serving parliament member who is involved in the illegal drug business is attempting to frame me.

“He tried to ruin my reputation by sending police to my business offices in the pretence of looking for illegal substances. I do not get involved in such acts,” he claimed.

Despite Naseer’s claims, when Minivan News asked Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef on Tuesday whether police had searched his offices, Haneef denied they had.

“I will not name the MP, I do not need to name him here. He is trying to hide the relations he has with gangs and his involvement in the illegal drug business,” Naseer claimed.

“If I, Umar Naseer, get elected, MPs cannot hide behind their privileges act and run illegal activities. I will take legal action against them,” he added.

Both Umar Naseer and Abdulla Yameen are currently campaigning to win the PPM’s presidential candidate slot for the upcoming presidential elections to be held in September this year.

People say Yameen bathes in mineral water: Umar Naseer

Speaking to crowds at the artificial beach in Male’ on Friday, Naseer claimed that “unlike Yameen” he is an ordinary citizen and not related to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

In regard to Abdulla Yameen – who is also contending in the PPM presidential primary – Naseer claimed that his fellow contender plays “80 percent in defence”.

“We heard our brother MP [Ahmed] Nihan speaking at Yameen’s campaign rally. All he did was try to denounce what the public says about Yameen.

“Nihan said that although people allege Yameen has ties with gangs and gang violence it is not true. He then said that although people say Yameen even bathes with mineral water, that isn’t true either,” Naseer stated.

In response to the PPM presidential primary candidate’s claims, a spokesperson for Abdulla Yameen’s ‘Yageen’ campaign team told local media on Saturday that Naseer had made slanderous and “blatantly untruthful” statements about Yameen during the rally.

The spokesperson, PPM MP Shifaq Mufeed, said that the purpose of such statements was to damage Yameen’s credibility amongst his supporters.

Umar Naseer was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.


ACC launch investigation into 99-year Maamigili Airport lease

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has begun investigating the 99-year lease of Maamigili Airport to Villa Shipping and Trading, local media reported.

The private airport is owned by Chairman of Villa Group and Jumhoree Party (JP) MP, Gasim Ibrahim. The airport had initially been leased to the JP presidential candidate’s Villa company for 30 years.

Former Minister of Transport Dr Ahmed Shamheed – who was nominated as transport minister by JP – was later removed from his cabinet post after extending the airport lease.

President of ACC Hassan Luthfee told local media that the commission has launched an investigation into the case and that all documentation regarding the lease has been collected.

“This Commission has started looking into the matter of the extension of the management period of Maamigili Airport for a duration of 99 years, because the news has been circulating in the media,” Luthfee was quoted as saying in local media.

Gasim has claimed that there were no acts of corruption in the airport lease.


Deadline to seek foreign experts for CoNI investigation extended

The deadline to seek two foreign experts for investigation into the report of Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) has been extended, local media has reported.

Parliament’s Committee on Oversight of the Government decided to extend the deadline until Sunday, as proper procedure was not followed when the announcement was published on the website by the parliament office, local media stated.

Committee Chairperson and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ali Waheed was quoted by local media as saying that the announcement, written in English, had been published in the Dhivehi section of the parliament website rather than in the English section.

“I am concerned about what the employees of the parliament office have done. It’s not acceptable that an announcement that should have been published in the English section was published in the Dhivehi section. We have to pay attention to this,” Waheed was quoted as saying in Sun Online.

Committee members said that individuals interested in applying for assisting in the investigation of the CoNI report did not have any information on how to apply for this post, local media reported.

The announcement seeks two experts who have experience working in world legislative assemblies, who are willing to work with the committee members for two weeks.


CNI criticism will “complicate” resolving all-party talks: Thasmeen

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has today welcomed efforts to resume the stalled all-party talks, despite warning that any agreement on resolving political tensions in the Maldives had been “complicated” by opposition criticism of a draft report of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI).

The all-party talks, which were last held back in June, are one track of the international community’s response to the political turmoil in the Maldives, together with the Commonwealth-backed CNI.

DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali said today that his party had no objections to resume these all-party talks and subsequent discussions over the possibility of setting early elections.

However, Thasmeen claimed criticisms of the CNI’s findings by former President Mohamed Nasheed’s own representative on the commission threatened to compromise the chances of finding a potential resolution through dialogue.

The DRP is presently one of several parties serving in the coalition government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

President Waheed announced on Friday (August 24) during an official visit to Sri Lanka that he would be inviting “political parties” to attend fresh all party talks, initially launched to try and resolve an ongoing deadlock in the country surrounding the controversial transfer of power that brought him to office in February.

While welcoming fresh talks, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which alleges that President Waheed came to power in a “coup d’etat”, has raised several concerns over the “conflicting statements” made by the government concerning talks of early elections and discussions on the potential outcomes of the CNI report.

The independence of the CNI’s report into the events surrounding the transfer of power on February 7 was itself today questioned by former President Mohamed Nasheed’s appointee to the commission, Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed.

Saeed alleged that certain information and evidence provided to the CNI had been omitted in a draft report of the body’s findings drawn up by the commission’s co-chair.

“There are significant gaps in the draft and it does not include evidence and statements given to the commission by many people. I believe remaining silent on the unfolding of events would be an injustice to this nation and to the people of the Maldives,” he announced today.

“Taking positions”

DRP Leader Thasmeen contended that Saeed’s comments had potentially compromised the success for all-party talks to resolve the current political tensions, as key players had now begun taking positions on the CNI’s findings before they had even been released.

“One party is now making judgements on the CNI, when the whole idea was to set out potential responses to the CNI before its findings are released,” he said. “Now people are changing their positions on how they will respond to the findings and things will be much more complicated on reaching acceptance on the report.”

Thasmeen contended therefore that “regardless of the CNI’s outcome”, all parties should accept its findings.

In moving forward with all-party talks, Thasmeen claimed that the DRP itself had no objections to the nature of potential topics on the agenda – a consideration that had seen earlier all-party talks stall on a number of occasions.

“Preconditions are not healthy in these talks, but today’s events have made things much more complicated now,” he said.

Thasmeen added at the time of press that he had not yet been made aware of whether a formal invite to the all-party talks from the president had been received by the DRP as he had been away travelling.  He added that while the DRP welcomed talks between political representatives “at the highest level”, the party would wait to see who else would be attending the discussions before nominating its own candidate to take part.

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – a government coalition partner of the DRP – last night announced it would also be accepting President Waheed’s invite to participate in talks.

PPM Leader and former Maldivan President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom told local media that the party’s decision to previously abandon the all-party talks had followed the start of what he claimed were “illegal activities” and protests carried out by the MDP.

PPM Deputy Leader Umar Naseer declined to comment today when contacted by Minivan News about the party’s participation in the talks or its response to the CNI’s findings.

While also welcoming the possibility of fresh talks today, MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that President Waheed had continued to be acting “irresponsibly” by giving conflicting statements regarding his support for talks.  Ghafoor said this was seen particularly in the manner the president had addressed issues such as discussing early elections and the possible outcomes of the CNI.

“[President Waheed] has said in Colombo that is the opposition who are destabilising the country at present, but it is his own conflicting positions that are doing this,” he alleged.

Ghafoor pointed to claims made by the president in both international and local media during his visit to Sri Lanka over the last week that he said showed conflicting viewpoints with his stated desire to resume the talks.  President Waheed and his government in a number of interviews ruled out Commonwealth calls for early elections, as well as maintaining there would be no discussion on the outcome’s of the CNI until its work was completed.

“We would welcome the all-party talks. On August 14 we proposed discussions on three potential outcomes of the CNI. By August 18 we had got a reply from the government, who have since then been giving conflicting statements to the media,” Ghafoor claimed. “[President Waheed] has now called for all parties to join in talks and discuss the previous six point agenda, which includes the issue of early elections. He has also said that early elections are out of the question as the Commonwealth doesn’t understand the present situation.”

Following Saeed’s statement today, the MDP convened an emergency meeting of its National Council, where a resolution expressing concern on the draft CNI report was adopted with unanimous consent.  The resolution was proposed by former minister Mohamed Shihab and seconded by MP Mariya Ahmed Didi,

Despite the party’s criticism of the investigation, Ghafoor contended that there remained time to find consensus among the members of the CNI panel concerning the findings before they were released to the public on Thursday (August 30).

“The CNI report should be something that all its members have to agree upon so without MDP’s word, the report would not be authentic,” Ghafoor said. “There is a draft out there that appears to conclude that there was no police mutiny [on February 7], this is just not acceptable given what the public saw,” he claimed.

President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza and Media secretary Masood Imad were not responding to calls by Minivan News at the time of press.

However, speaking to local media following the release of Saeed’s statement today, Abbas claimed that Nasheed’s representative on the CNI panel had “violated” the agreement with the Commonwealth concerning disclosing details of the investigation.

“The Commonwealth agreement Nasheed signed states that a Singaporean judge will reside in CNI. No one must interfere with the work of the commission and also states that everyone must accept the findings of the commission,” he was quoted as saying in newspaper Haveeru. “But the representative from Nasheed sharing the draft report with the public is an indication that Nasheed does not respect any agreement.”

Abbas reportedly added that as a draft report, the CNI members still had room to discuss finalising the findings before their release.

Discussion focus

The previous round of the UN-mediated all-party talks, held at Vice President Waheed Deen’s Bandos Island Resort and Spa in early June, collapsed after parties aligned with the government presented the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) with a list of 30 demands.

The list included calls that the MDP “stop practicing black magic and sorcery”, “stop the use of sexual and erotic tools”, and “not walk in groups of more than 10”.

Following the Bandos retreat meeting, Convenor of the All-Party talks, Ahmed Mujuthaba, acknowledged the lack of progress and suggested that “In the end, the most senior political leaders will need to create an atmosphere conducive to discussions, and come together prepared to work in good faith.”

Earlier this month, informal parliament-initiated talks – running parallel to the formal All-Party talks – were deemed to have stalled after participants failed to reach a consensus on resolving wider ongoing political deadlock and the suspension of the People’s Majlis.


Comment: Conflicting interim reports highlight political spat

Two interim reports from the two sides, so to say, and the focus is slowly slipping away from the work on hand for the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) probing then-Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation of February 7. It is back more ore less in the realm of politics and public-spat.

Of the two reports, if they could be called so, one has the relative legitimacy of being produced by the outgoing CNI before it was expanded, and the other from President Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), at whose instance the CNI is being expanded in the first place. Who jumped the gun and why are questions for which neither side may have convincing answers.

It does not stop there. The police have since arrested a senior intelligence officer from the Nasheed era, for providing information for the MDP report. Chief Superintendent of Police Mohamed Hameed and Staff Sergeant Ahmed Naseer were arrested, based on court warrants, for talking to the MDP probe.

The Government side has also questioned the propriety of President Nasheed’s one-time Defence Minister and later National Security Advisor, AmeenFaizal, who co-authored the MDP report and sought to establish the party’s earlier claims of a ’military/police coup’ forcing President Nasheed’s resignation. At the same time, Assistant Police Commissioner Hassan Habeeb has reportedly complained a that a Quran teacher has stopped giving tuition classes for his daughter, citing his name figuring in the MDP report.

President Waheed Hassan has since sort of clarified that the expanded CNI with an MDP nominee and a retired Judge from Singapore as external member on the panel would review the work done by the probe team thus far, before proceeding with the task on hand.

Yet, it is anybody’s guess if and why the Government did not discourage the CNI from publishing the ’time-line’, when it was due for review. The CNI’s claim that the publication was to encourage the public to come up with their views within a given deadline does not wash. The people at large were not privy to the controversies attending on President Nasheed’s resignation, and they could not have been called to act as jury in the case, which could only be described as tendency towards ’mobocracy’ of sorts.

The MDP can be expected to raise the issue of the outgoing CNI publicising its incomplete work as prejudicing the views of the expanded CNI and also that of the public. There is some validity in the party’s position as none of the three members of the incumbent CNI are expected to opt out. Thus, they could still have defended their work even if the two new members were to contest the same. Incidentally, they would still hold numerical majority in the expanded CNI. The party, citing the CNI, has also demanded President Waheed’s resignation, but has been selective about its side of the story flowing from the CNI time-line. Having launched mob violence repeatedly on the streets of Male, the national capital, and other urban centres across the country, the party may have also lost the moral right to question the methods of others ? Not that such a tendency by anyone should be encouraged, now or later.

The publication of the CNI time-line should not absolve the MDP of the charge that they too might have shot themselves in the foot all over again. Having demanded steadfastly for expanding the CNI and having its nominee on board, along with one representing the international community so to say, the party should have waited for the probe report to be out before coming out with its clarifications, if any. Two wrongs do not a right make, and possible MDP’s claims that the existing CNI was the one that started off the game should not wash, either. The party could be charged with seeking to influence the expanded CNI and the people at large, just as it has charged the existing CNI already.

The MDP has also not denied the charge flowing from the arrest of the two police officers, who were believed to have talked to the party’s probe team. Instead, the party’s international spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has charged the Government with purging ’police whistle-blowers’, as if to defend their right to speak to private probes, particularly when an official one was halfway through its work. Even granting that the police officers concerned had talked to the MDP team in good faith that the Government probe is an eye-wash, it is anybody’s guess why the party decided to proceed with the publication of the report of its two-member team after its demands on the CNI front had been met, through international intervention. Thus, it is not the party whose credibility alone is under a cloud now.

Pressuring the probe at birth

Prima facie, avoidable controversies of the kind will pressure the expanded CNI at birth, and also take precious time off their work-schedule, viewing and reviewing the work already done, more closely than may have been otherwise. This could mean that the expanded, five-member CNI may not be able to meet the July-end deadline for submitting its report. The three-member, original CNI could not meet the May-end deadline earlier, after a decision was taken to expand the same, to include representatives proposed by the MDP and the Commonwealth.

This could push back future political negotiations, particularly on the MDP demand for early poll for the presidency that much more. One can safely conclude at this stage that the MDP’s year-end deadline for the purpose may be dismissed as impractical. Thus far, the Government parties have been arguing that the demand was improper and not provided for in the Constitution as it exists now.

The constitution of the CNI also suffers from another lacuna, among many, which the inexperience of the nation’s polity – particularly that of the more vociferous MDP – has not addressed. Having been constituted by President Waheed, the CNI will have to submit its report to him. Through the past months since the exit of President Nasheed, the MDP in particular has charged President Waheed with being party to the ’conspiracy’. It has always demanded the resignation of President Waheed. Under such circumstances, the propriety of the CNI submitting its report to President Waheed could be under question. One can expect the MDP in particular to raise such issues, post facto, but it may be in the fitness of things to address such minor irritants early on as they could be blown out of proportion on a later day.

Whither Roadmap talks?

Even without what could be described as inevitable delays in the working of the CNI, the Roadmap Talks for political reconciliation remain dead-locked. The agenda for the talks is noteworthy for including in it concerns for consensus over the nation’s economy, going beyond the realm of immediate politics. There are also references to the need for constitutional amendments for protecting national institutions. These are serious issues, which need to be taken up in a spirit of national understanding and cohesion, going beyond the immediate demands of partisan politics of one kind or the other. Many of the issues on board relate to the dynamic nature of democratic politics and Constitution-making for a nation that had remained politically insulated from modern influences and practices. The Indian contribution to the Roadmap talks too should be viewed from the South Asian neighbour’s experience with the dynamic processes of democratic well-being.

It does not flow that the Roadmap Talks should be finding solutions to each of the identified problems facing the nation, here and now. As the processes that it had set in motion for its functioning the all-party grouping had started with prioritising the agenda for discussion, decision-making and implementation. They now need to focus on these greater aspects of democratic being and Constitution-making, which are both dynamic processes. Having set the nation’s priority, the stake-holders can then prioritise between those needing their immediate attention and solution, and those that need to mature further before the nation could apply its collective wisdom to problem-solving.

Ensuring the independence of constitutional institutions and establishing their credibility have to be dovetailed if Maldivian democracy has to mean something more than what governance was all about in the pre-democracy era. It is not only about the MDP picking up individuals with a past but also insisting only on publicising their past, and politicking almost exclusively on the same. Such an approach meant that there was paucity of ideas for the Nasheed Government other than those prescribed on the economic front by an external organisation as the IMF. This created a chasm within the polity and even otherwise, which the Government of the day sought to brush under the democracy carpet.

’Conflict as comfort zone’

Instead, it is all about addressing the larger issues and concerns that related to the past, and the accompanying circumstances. There are few MDP leaders, for instance, who do not have their past linked to what the party often describes as the ’dreaded regime’ of former President Maumoon Gayoom. The second-line leaders in a cadre-based party like the MDP and in a country like MDP with no democratic past to boast of at any point in time, do not have the kind of exposure and experience required to govern a nation as complex as Maldives, however ’tiny’ it might look for the outside world.

Independent of the numbers that have been added to the MDP membership list after the party came to power, the core cadre of the party still seem to live in the past. The have been fed on an ideology and dogma that have no relation to ground realities of politics and public life in any democracy. They have also been slow in on-job learning, in relation to the attitudinal changes required to be the party in power. This trend seems to dominate the decision-making processes in the party, post-resignation, as well, and the MDP seems shy of reviewing its own contributions to the expanding political mess and the repeated constitutional deadlocks.

This does not mean that the MDP alone has the responsibility in the matter. Most, if not all political parties in the Government at present, were partners with the MDP in ushering in democracy ahead of the presidential polls in 2008. All of them, including then President Gayoom, had facilitated the democratic transition. While most others also facilitated the election of MDP’s Nasheed as President in the second, run-off round, as the incumbent, President Gayoom willingly handed over power without protest or plots, which some MDP leaders had otherwise anticipated during the run-up to the presidential polls. They too thus share the responsibility for having democracy take deep-roots, particularly since no one in the nation’s polity seems to be visualising any reversal of democracy. Yet, the responsibility of the MDP in ushering in democracy, and the party’s attendant duty for understanding the processes even better, is a role that the leadership has to take more seriously than at present.

For now, Maldives and Maldivians can take heart that they have only ’telescoped’ the dynamism of democracies into a much shorter span than in nations of the world, including South Asian neighbours like India and Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. Yet, Maldives cannot afford to continue with conflict as comfort zone of internal contradictions, to the exclusion of the work on hand and issues of every day governance that can be put off only at peril to the nation and the people, and polity and political leaderships. They need to act, and no time is better than the hour that has already been lost.

The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation.

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